Math Lessons With a Side of Fun

Students in Damion Creel's seventh grade math class at Wiley Middle School work on a problem.
Seventh graders in Damion Creel’s math class at Wiley Middle School get plenty of math conversation, solid life coaching and just a little silliness in each 90-minute class.  

“One of my goals is to help kids get over their fear of having the wrong answer,” said Creel. “I try to create an environment where they feel safe to talk about the problem-solving process.” He may also ask a student who describes an equation clearly to stand on a chair and repeat it.

This day’s lesson is on volume and surface area – definitions, the difference between the two, and equations needed to calculate them. 

Class begins with students working quietly on their laptops honing their definitions. Then they compare definitions. “Vocabulary is important,” says Creel. “We call these flat surfaces faces.” The remaining hour is spent on a handful of volume and surface area problems.

Getting the right answer is important, but Creel also expects students to describe how they arrived at an answer. During class conversation, students respond to each other and ask their peers questions about the problem-solving process.  

One student clearly knew the math words but was not using them in the correct context. “Don’t just use important words,” said Creel. “You’re giving me too much information, and making it harder than it is. Let’s read the problem together and talk it through.”

This process is repeated for each problem, calculating and then talking about the process. And for the really serious math statements – a little chair standing.
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Volume 3, Issue 5, Posted 2:32 PM, 04.16.2010